Early in our marriage my husband and I relocated for his schooling. In our new ward I worked closely with a woman whose manner I found brusque and insensitive. Looking for sympathy, I complained to my husband, lamenting that such a woman would be in a leadership position in the ward. Rather than offering the sympathy I expected, my husband presented an informal but valuable lesson on the importance of love and tolerance.
In the Church, he said, we are all working together to build the kingdom of God. He suggested that individual members are like bricks. None of us “bricks,” however, is perfectly sound. Under close scrutiny each is flawed—a gouge here, a bump there. When we are placed side by side with other bricks, there is seldom a perfect fit. Invariably there are gaps or wobbles where others’ imperfections come into contact with our own. Without the “mortar” of love, tolerance, patience, and forgiveness, our efforts to build the kingdom would come to naught.
As our family has grown and my experiences in helping to build the kingdom have broadened, I have often reflected on this simple lesson. I am reminded of my own responsibility to be more charitable in my interactions with others. And where my own shortcomings are concerned, I am more appreciative of those who are liberal with “mortar” in their dealings with me.
Lee Ann Fairbanks, Moses Lake 10th Ward, Moses Lake Washington Stake
My first Sunday in church was in early 1995. All my life I had spent weekends in stadiums and gymnasiums. I love sports! I was even studying sports. But in January 1995 I came in contact with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sister missionaries invited me to attend church, and I went.
It was a fast and testimony meeting. I sat on a massive wooden pew, one sister missionary to my right, the other to my left. But I encountered only unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar music, unfamiliar proceedings, and unfamiliar words. I had never partaken of the sacrament before and was preoccupied with finding out the appropriate conduct. I felt very uncomfortable. I said to myself, “It will be over at some point, and then I will get out of here and never come back.” But the meeting concluded with the announcement that all should remain in the chapel for a lesson by the mission president, President Charles W. Dahlquist II, who now serves as Young Men general president. So most people, including the sister missionaries, remained seated, and I could not simply sneak out inconspicuously, as I had planned. Since I did not have the courage to tell the missionaries how awful I was feeling, I decided to endure.
President Dahlquist stood in front. He began by asking what we would do with a good book we had just read. My answer was, “Read it again, recommend it to others, or give it as a gift.”
He spoke about the Book of Mormon, then about a few other subjects. But something peculiar happened. I suddenly knew that everything he said was true. I knew that he knew more things that were true as well. I knew that I wanted to know what he knew. I knew that I wanted to have in my life what he had as an anchor in his life. It is hard to find words to describe this experience. I simply knew that he knew.
I looked around stealthily to see if anybody had noticed anything unusual, for I had the impression that something wonderful had happened.
Because of his lesson I attended church again—and again. My baptism was on March 2, 1996, approximately one year after this experience. Today I have five wonderful children and a wonderful, eternal husband.
I recall often and with gratitude this lesson.
Barbara Hopf, Stade Branch, Hamburg Germany Stake
The lesson that most affected my life was a Primary lesson. It was so long ago that I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but the lesson penetrated my soul so deeply that I have never forgotten it.
When I was five years old I learned that God was my Heavenly Father and that Jesus Christ was my Savior and Redeemer. I learned that They love all people and that I could speak with God whenever I needed to because He always listens to my prayers. My faith increased, something within my heart grew, and little by little I gained a testimony of the Godhead. With the pure intent of a small child, I started praying with greater fervor, and I had many wonderful experiences with prayer.
I attended church for more than a year. Then other events made my going to church difficult. But I never stopped praying.
I was finally able to join the Church when I turned 20 years old. I was baptized with the sincere feelings of a child who says to her Father, “I’m coming back home.”
The seed was planted when I was a child and then germinated when I became an adult. I don’t know whether that teacher knows how much she helped me. But her lesson transformed my soul and kept my feet on the sure path, even while I had no contact with the Church for 14 years.
Estela Santana Leitão Cavalcante, Praia Grande Ward, Praia Grande Brazil Stake
When I was a Laurel more than 15 years ago, our stake Young Women president was a real heroine to me and many other girls. Her beautiful, curly brown hair impressed me, but she was also smart and articulate, a spiritual woman, a returned missionary, and a newlywed. She wore nice modest clothes, showing us how attractive we could be without compromising our standards. I remember her personifying every dream I had ever dreamed for my own future.
Once she was the speaker at a fireside for the Young Women. When we entered the chapel, we saw her gorgeous white wedding gown displayed in a prominent place. What can be more exciting than a wedding dress when you’re a dreaming 16-year-old? I imagined a fireside about boys and our bright futures.
But when our Young Women president started speaking, it became clear that this was not her plan. She started talking about chastity and how important it was to keep ourselves morally clean. She stood at the pulpit with notes and a pen and talked emphatically about these crucial matters.
All of a sudden the unthinkable happened. She gestured as she spoke and somehow flipped ink from her fountain pen across the wedding dress. The ink made a big stain on the white fabric. We were devastated.
I don’t remember exactly what she said next. It was something about our being as clean and pure as her white dress and that sexual transgressions, however small they might seem, would stain us just as the ink had stained the dress. I recall never ever wanting to be anything but clean and pure. It was a decision I had already made subconsciously, but now it was unforgettably engraved upon my heart.
After she had made her point about remaining clean or becoming clean, she informed us that the ink was invisible ink from a prank store and that it would disappear in a couple of minutes. She hadn’t tried it before, so we all sat there hoping it would work. It did.
Since that day this object lesson has had a special place in my mind. I want to appear before my Heavenly Father as pure as that white dress.
Anja Klarin, Borås Ward, Göteborg Sweden Stake
I always believed in God the Eternal Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Ever since I was young I felt the desire to be closer to Them, but I didn’t know how.
In May 2000 I had my first contact with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had just turned 17 when I met the missionaries. They knocked on my friend’s door, and she invited me to hear them. After listening to the discussions and attending sacrament meeting, my friend and I, as well as my father, mother, and younger brother, were baptized.
We were well received into the ward organizations. I was in Young Women. I was very happy and loved our Young Women president, Maria José, who always helped me grow spiritually. At about the time I finished the Young Women program, Maria José became my Sunday School teacher.
One Sunday she notified us that the following week we would be studying the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and invited each of us to bring a copy of Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage.
The next Sunday we all sat in the room with our books. Each of us had been assigned to study part of the book and explain it to the class. Our teacher orchestrated the reading of scriptures and our explanations. The Spirit influenced us in a magnificent way. Everyone was crying when we talked about Gethsemane and Calvary. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen in a gospel class. I had never before understood with such profound feeling the power and spirit of the Atonement.
At the end of class we sang a hymn and had a simple prayer. We were very moved. I am grateful for the Atonement and for the plan of salvation. I am especially grateful for the love and concern of our teacher, who wanted us to feel the Holy Ghost bear witness of the gospel and the Atonement.
Elaine Cristina Farias de Oliveira, Panatis Ward, Natal Brazil Potengi Stake